Published on 22 Oct 2012
St. Luke the Physician – October 21st, 2012
The Rev. Dixie Black
Christ Church Cathedral
Click Here to listen to an audio MP3 of the sermon
I’m going to begin with a story. Take a moment to settle yourself comfortably; close your eyes or soften your gaze so your attention is focussed inside as you listen. Take a couple of breaths.
Imagine that woman is the primary gender and frame of reference for all. Think of it being that way, every day of your life. Feel the ever presence of woman and feel the non presence of man. Absorb what it tells you of the importance and value of being woman….and of being man.
Recall that everything you have ever read all your life uses only female pronouns…she, her…meaning both women and men. Recall that most of the voices in the media delivering important messages are women. Recall that you have very few male politicians representing you in government.
Feel into the fact that women are the leaders, the CEOs, the power centers, the prime movers and decision makers. Man, whose natural role is husband and father, fulfills himself through nurturing children and making home a refuge for woman. This is only natural to balance the biological role of woman, who devotes her entire body to the race during pregnancy.
Then feel further into the obvious biological explanation for woman as the ideal…her reproductive construction. By design women’s reproductive organs are compact and internal, protected from outside attack or mishap to ensure the perpetuation of the human race. A man’s vulnerability clearly requires sheltering.
Thus, by nature, males are more passive than females, and have a desire in relationships to be symbolically engulfed by the protective body of the woman. Males psychologically yearn for this protection, fully realizing their masculinity at this time…feeling exposed and vulnerable at other times. The male is not fully adult until he has overcome his infantile tendency to deny his dependence. He feels himself a whole man when engulfed by a woman.
If a male denies these feelings, he is unconsciously rejecting his masculinity. Therapy is thus indicated to help him adjust to his own nature. Of course, therapy is administered by a woman, who has the education and wisdom to facilitate openness, leading to the man’s growth and self actualization.
To help him feel into his defensive emotionality, he is invited to get in touch with the ‘child’ in him. He remembers his sister’s jeering and teasing at the limitations imposed by his body. She can run, climb, and ride horseback unencumbered. Obviously, since she is free to move, she is encouraged to develop her body and mind in preparation for her active responsibilities of adult womanhood. The male vulnerability needs female protection, so he is taught the less active, caring virtues of homemaking, or is prepared for a career in the helping professions; teaching, nursing. He is encouraged to keep his body lean and attractive and dream of being chosen by a beautiful, powerful and successful woman…waiting for his time of fulfillment when his woman gives him a girl child to carry on the family name. He knows that if it is a boy child that he has failed somehow…but they can try again.
Society is based on the ancient biblical world that was matriarchal and matrilineal. Because God is feminine, and Adam is responsible for the fall in the garden, women are the social, political, religious and family leaders. Men’s lives are tightly controlled and subservient to the women in their families. Religious ritual was, and is, dominated by women, and stories and texts reflect only their perspective. Jesa the Christa was sent by the Mother to release all oppressed people from their bondage, and to teach the world of love, compassion and equality for all.
In spite of the teachings, the matrilineal society prevailed and the Holy Scripture included texts that influence the church to this day and affect the full inclusion and participation of men.
This is the end of the story.
We all know how ridiculous this sounds, and its clearly an exaggeration. But notice how the story made you feel. The stories that are the backdrop of our culture shape how we see ourselves, how we see the world and how we see our place in it. From that perspective our world view is normalized. Men and women are different biologically and are shaped by that…as well as shaped by the culture in which we are immersed.
It was only 50 years ago the reverse story was the accepted norm for women and men. We have learned a lot in the last fifty years and wouldn’t dream of raising our children with such limiting gender identities. Would we?
The prevailing wisdom of our times suggests that we need a balance of the masculine way of being and thinking with the feminine way and that the survival of our planet may depend on it. That is why it is imperative that many more women are sitting alongside men in the spheres of power where decisions are being made; in government, education, corporate boardrooms and religious institutions. Many women are needed to bring a balance, not only a few who can be forced into acting like the men around them just so they can do their jobs.
We have an opportunity in our own diocese to address this, if we choose, along with other important issues. A committee has prepared a draft of a plan for restructuring the governance model of the diocese in the White Paper of Diocesan Reorganization and Restructuring. This has come out of the vision statement from Plan 2018: Growing communities of faith in Jesus Christ to serve God’s mission in the world.
It is an excellent working document prepared by people who obviously put a lot of careful thought into how we can bring a more efficient and streamlined governance model to the real world of our church in the early 21st century. There is a sincere appeal for input from the wider community. To this end there are meetings organized in all the deaneries for conversation, questions and suggestions. The meeting for our deanery is next Saturday morning, Oct 27th at St. Matthias and St. Luke.
What I noticed is absent among the suggested changes is a stated intention for gender balance in the executive committee where much will be thought through and perhaps even decided before it is presented to Diocesan Council for debate and approval. The writers of the document may have thought of that and not written it in. Or, it may not have occurred to them that it is necessary. There are some who think, in this diocese, that the gender issue has been addressed. After all, there are many women who are ordained and many gifted lay women who work on behalf of the church. But there is not one woman who holds an executive position in this diocese working in the Synod office.
It’s not that I think women are better or can do a better job. It’s not that I think that men don’t do a good job. It’s that I believe that, in this time and this place in the history of our church, it is critical to have a balance of voices, perspectives and experience in the decisions that affect everyone, clergy and laity. Voices that will affect the mission of God through our church in the world as it is today.
Another demographic that could be intentionally included in our governance model is clergy under the age of forty. We have many bright and energetic younger clergy who can offer a perspective that is close to the world we are living into. They will be the ones who, by 2018, will be working in God’s mission with the decisions we make today.
The reading from Sirach that we heard this morning is from a genre of books called wisdom literature. It was written by a teacher in Jerusalem sometime between 200 and 180 BCE at a time when the Jewish social system was under pressure and it reads as an ancient self help book, addressing everything from how to choose appropriate friends and manage your wealth to proper etiquette at a banquet.
The verses in today’s reading, in honour of St. Luke, address concerns with health and describe the virtues of the physician. Because sickness was thought to be the result of sin, physicians appeared to interfere with divine punishment. The writer defends the healing profession, arguing that God made herbs and medicinal roots and that doctors can pray for guidance in their work. He cleverly combines the new ways while maintaining the role of God in healing. Cultures and communities have always and will always work to change entrenched belief systems as knowledge evolves and new ideas are integrated.
The field of medicine was in its infancy at the time of Sirach. The practice of the full inclusion of women into the rooms of power in the Anglican Church is still in its infancy.
Enjoyed this post?